Directed by: Greg Mottola
Written by: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds
Summer seasonal jobs provide teenagers the ability to earn some money while also learning some valuable life lessons. These jobs are rarely fun and take away from the unbridled experiences summer used to provide when younger. It happens to extend to these characters as they each face impactful moments in their life. Adventureland succeeds when looking at the angst of these characters despite their privilege.
After his family unexpectedly moves to Pittsburgh, James (Jesse Eisenburg) must take a summer job before he moves to New York for graduate school. With no actual work experience, he gets a job at a small theme park where he meets a wide array of people that will change his outlook on life forever.
Going through this story may be frustrating for some because it can be seen as very “first-world” problems. James had a whole plan to go on a European summer trip subsidized by his parents before their financial woes struck. The girl James meets at the park, Em (Kristen Stewart), works just to get out of her very affluent house and her father. Everything becomes an equalizer when they reach Adventureland and it brings out the insecurities and the viciousness of each character. While these characters may not have the biggest issues in the grand scheme of life, the relationships fostered and explored in the park sparks the quality that comes from the film.
It feels like a teen movie with characters in their 20s and beyond. All of the drama of who can land with the hot girl and trying to crush on others all working at the same place. Having them be older provides a different context to their actions where most can legally drink, thus not making it forbidden. However, just as when young teenagers, everything revolves around having sex with others. Through the narrative, It’s revealed that James has not lost his virginity and it becomes a story point that does not receive much emphasis but still remains part of his characterization. Every guy ogles Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), and the good-looking Connell (Ryan Reynolds) loves to kickstart relationships with younger workers despite being married. Even with these aged-up characters, it shows that the angst around sex remains the same because of the culture surrounded around it.
Jesse Eisenburg provides the typical performance for the type of character he has mastered in his career but the true greatness came from the supporting cast. Kristin Stewart as Em plays a complex character that has to contend with different feelings and desires in her life. Em legitimately hates everything about her life with the park providing her own escape, which then gets complicated once the story unfolds. Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig as the married couple that runs the theme park provide the best bits of comedy throughout the film as they seem ridiculous but ultimately show sincerity in a way no other characters seem to display. While the workers don’t take the jobs seriously, Hader and Wiig bring that touch of self-serious behavior that’s always necessary for that line of work.
Adventureland focuses on the pain inflicted on the people we love as seen through James, Em, and Connell. Each of them has advantaged situations in life that many would love to have yet they consistently fight against it to their own detriment. James has a family that adores him and wants to set him up for success. Until their financial woes, they were ready to send him off on a month-long trip to Europe with his friends and pay his New York City rent. Connell lives a seemingly happy married life with his wife and Em has an affluent family and gets the opportunity to attend a prestigious university but they all cause harm anyway. Whether it be James with his childlike behavior, Em with her decision making, and Connell with his infidelity. That harm gets felt in the film and forces these characters to reflect on who they have become.
Filled with great comedic moments, Adventureland captures the dread of taking on a summer job no matter the age group. It creates a type of unity that cannot be seen elsewhere and drama will happen because of it. This film provides plenty to enjoy, as it takes the audience into this 1980s throwback with its soundtrack and sentimentality about the world. The characters are fleshed out and explore the consequences of their actions because, in the end, they must move on just like when summer ends.